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Ethan Nowak
Umeå University
  1. No Context, No Content, No Problem.Ethan Nowak - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    Recently, philosophers have offered compelling reasons to think that demonstratives are best represented as variables, sensitive not to the context of utterance, but to a variable assignment. Variablists typically explain familiar intuitions about demonstratives—intuitions that suggest that what is said by way of a demonstrative sentence varies systematically over contexts—by claiming that contexts initialize a particular assignment of values to variables. I argue that we do not need to link context and the assignment parameter in this way, and that we (...)
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  2. Language Loss and Illocutionary Silencing.Ethan Nowak - 2020 - Mind 129 (515):831-865.
    The twenty-first century will witness an unprecedented decline in the diversity of the world’s languages. While most philosophers will likely agree that this decline is lamentable, the question of what exactly is lost with a language has not been systematically explored in the philosophical literature. In this paper, I address this lacuna by arguing that language loss constitutes a problematic form of illocutionary silencing. When a language disappears, past and present speakers lose the ability to realize a range of speech (...)
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  3.  44
    Who’s Your Ideal Listener?Ethan Nowak & Eliot Michaelson - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    It is increasingly common for philosophers to rely on the notion of an idealised listener when explaining how the semantic values of context-sensitive expressions are determined. Some have identified the semantic values of such expressions, as used on particular occasions, with whatever an appropriately idealised listener would take them to be. Others have argued that, for something to count as the semantic value, an appropriately idealised listener should be able to recover it. Our aim here is to explore the range (...)
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  4. Multiculturalism, Autonomy, and Language Preservation.Ethan Nowak - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.
    In this paper, I show how a novel treatment of speech acts can be combined with a well-known liberal argument for multiculturalism in a way that will justify claims about the preservation, protection, or accommodation of minority languages. The key to the paper is the claim that every language makes a distinctive range of speech acts possible, acts that cannot be realized by means of any other language. As a result, when a language disappears, so does a class of speech (...)
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  5. Complex Demonstratives, Hidden Arguments, and Presupposition.Ethan Nowak - 2019 - Synthese:1-36.
    Standard semantic theories predict that non-deictic readings for complex demonstratives should be much more widely available than they in fact are. If such readings are the result of a lexical ambiguity, as Kaplan (1977) and others suggest, we should expect them to be available wherever a definite description can be used. The same prediction follows from ‘hidden argument’ theories like the ones described by King (2001) and Elbourne (2005). Wolter (2006), however, has shown that complex demonstratives admit non-deictic interpretations only (...)
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  6. Discourse and Method.Ethan Nowak & Eliot Michaelson - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (2):119-138.
    Stojnić et al. (2013, 2017) argue that the reference of demonstratives is fixed without any contribution from the extra-linguistic context. On their `prominence/coherence' theory, the reference of a demonstrative expression depends only on its context-independent linguistic meaning. Here, we argue that Stojnić et al.’s striking claims can be maintained in only the thinnest technical sense. Instead of eliminating appeals to the extra-linguistic context, we show how the prominence/coherence theory merely suppresses them. Then we ask why one might be tempted to (...)
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  7.  34
    Really Complex Demonstratives: A Dilemma.Ethan Nowak - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-24.
    I have two aims for the present paper, one narrow and one broad. The narrow aim is to show that a class of data originally described by Lynsey Wolter empirically undermine the leading treatments of complex demonstratives that have been described in the literature. The broader aim of the paper is to show that Wolter demonstratives, as I will call the constructions I focus on, are a threat not just to existing treatments, but to any possible theory that retains the (...)
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  8. Demonstratives Without Rigidity or Ambiguity.Ethan Nowak - 2014 - Linguistics and Philosophy 37 (5):409-436.
    Most philosophers recognize that applying the standard semantics for complex demonstratives to non-deictic instances results in truth conditions that are anomalous, at best. This fact has generated little concern, however, since most philosophers treat non-deictic demonstratives as marginal cases, and believe that they should be analyzed using a distinct semantic mechanism. In this paper, I argue that non-deictic demonstratives cannot be written off; they are widespread in English and foreign languages, and must be treated using the same semantic machinery that (...)
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